A portion of the unit was provided a face-to-face meeting with a mental health specialists while others did so via the Internet. Doctors participating in the online evaluations said they felt they could make successful evaluations this way while using a technique that younger soldiers seemed to prefer, Chiarelli said.
Because there may be a link between some of the suicides and substance abuse, Chiarelli said he would like to bring on an additional 300 substance abuse counselors to help at bases in the United States, but said he was "having a heck of a time getting the number I need."
As part of that effort, he said a pilot program where soldiers can step forward with substance abuse problems without their superiors receiving automatic notification has shown "tremendous success."
Fort Campbell, Ky., had the highest number of suicides at any U.S. base with 18. Earlier this year, commanders grew so concerned about the suicide numbers at Fort Campbell that they ordered a three-day stand-down at the base to focus on suicide prevention.
Emblematic of the difficulty in spotting trends, while the number of suicides at Fort Campbell have risen this year, other larger bases have seen decreases this year. For example, Fort Bragg, N.C., has twice the population of Fort Campbell, but experienced six suicides this year.
Fort Hood, Texas, is even larger with a population of nearly 60,000 and it has had 11 suicides. Chiarelli noted that many of the suicides at these bases occurred in the first five months of the year.